The Sheep
If you want to know how many that is, try to think of a pasture with a hundred sheep
in it-then think of a hundred pastures, just like it, with just as many sheep in
each-then think of those hundred pastures taken twelve times over, and you will
begin to understand how many there were. It is not common with us to have persons
whose whole business it is to take care of sheep, but that was always the way in
Bible countries. This was not done by servants, at least not always; for a great many
of Jacob, "kept her father's sheep"-so did Jacob's twelve sons-so did Moses for his
anointing him, or putting oil upon his head. David had six brothers, and Samuel did
not know which of all the sons was to be king; but both he and their father Jesse
supposed it would be one of the older ones, and nobody remembered even to call
little David, who had been left with the sheep, until they found that he was the one
whom God had chosen. David often spoke of his shepherd-life after he became a king,
and even when he was an old man. You remember that most beautiful psalm of his,
the twenty-third, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want: he maketh me to lie
down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters." That is the way they
are accustomed to do in those countries: the shepherd walks on, and the sheep follow
where he wishes them to go. So Christ says, "And when he (the shepherd) putteth
forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know
his voice."
The sheep in many countries are in danger from wolves, which prowl about and try to
carry them off; so it is necessary to watch them by night as well as by day. You
remember the shepherds were watching their flocks by night when the bright angels
appeared to tell the glad tidings that A SAVIOR had come; and they were the first to
hear that sweet song in the stillness of the night, when all around were hushed in
The sheep is so timid and gentle that it needs the protection of man, and without the
care of the shepherd would often stray away and be lost, or devoured by other
animals. David says, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep;" and in Isaiah we read,
"All we like sheep have gone astray." Is not this true of us-that we have gone away,
far away, from Jesus our good shepherd? Perhaps, dear child, you are wandering still;
but why should you thus go on, alone, and every hour in danger? Why should you,
when he calls you back with his voice of kindness, and is ready to "gather you with
his arms, and carry you in his bosom." as the shepherd does his tender lambs?